It’s actually ridiculous that I haven’t written anything about Windmill Beach yet for the blog. It’s probably one of the three most popular shore entry sites on the western side of False Bay, and it’s absolutely beautiful. The beach is also a popular wedding venue – take care not to spoil the photos as you tramp past in your scuba gear!
Right next to Boulders Beach, Windmill shares the same type of topography: large, rounded boulders sheltering small inlets. On a calm day with no large swell, it’s paradise. (When there is a big swell, it’s a washing machine and not worth the walk down to the beach.) A huge variety of life colonises the granite boulders around the beach, and the patient observer will find other interesting creatures on the coarse, sandy bottom between the rocks.
Parking is at the end of Links Crescent, so-called because it runs behind the golf course in Simon’s Town. There’s often a man in a penguin suit standing on the corner of Bellevue Road, which is where you must turn left off the main road. Links Crescent is the first road to your right after the golf course. On weekends the site teems with divers, but during the week it’s advisable to organise yourself a car guard (Happy Valley Homeless Shelter can often oblige). The parking is right next to the golf course – be warned! There are public loos on the way down to the beach, but optimistically the most they can be said to provide in terms of amenities is a modicum of privacy. The well-maintained loos at Long Beach have spoiled us in this regard!
The two coves are very sheltered. The northernmost (left hand) one is very shallow and slopes very gently; the eastern (right hand) cove is the more popular entry point, and is ideal for skills training on the sandy bottom, as it is very protected and one can quickly get 1.5 to 2 metres of depth. There is plenty to see on the rocks around the edge of the cove, and in adverse conditions an entire dive could be conducted without leaving the protection of the rocks. At least one very large octopus lives in the shallows on the right hand side of the cove.
The maximum depth you’ll find at Windmill is about 8 metres – getting deeper requires quite a swim offshore. I think it involves more than a little luck as well as some navigation skils, but it’s possible to enter at the eastern cove, swim out and around the rocks, and exit at the northern cove. There is a narrow gap between the rocks (shortcut into the northern cove) that is terrible when there’s a swell – the first time I dived Windmill, with Fritz (just after I started diving) we got washed through it at a precipitous speed. If you skip the gap, knowing when to turn west and find the seaward entrance of the north cove is also quite an art, and a “surface to look around” may be required.
All that said, Windmill is an exceptionally attractive dive site. There are several passages to swim through, and the southern right whales that visit False Bay every year seem to like this spot. I have heard more than one story of divers encountering a jubilant whale in the shallow (for a whale) water. If you are one of the lucky ones who does, remember that these whales are very, very large in comparison to you, and an accidental sideswipe with its tail could well catapault you into next week.
When we dived there recently I found a white seacatfish, but wasn’t fast enough to photograph him as he disappeared into a crack in the rocks. There are lots of klipfish, gorgeous nudibranchs, and a wealth of other invertebrate life. You won’t find a single abalone (but lots of shells) – I think they’ve been poached out. The place is crawling with alikreukel. Fortunately at Photographer’s Reef, a 400 metre swim directly out into the bay from Windmill, there is a reasonably large and healthy population. Like A Frame, we saw many false plum anemones, and the Cape rock crab population at Windmill seems particularly healthy. If you want to see kelp forests, the ones at Windmill are particularly alluring, sloping gently upwards with a vivid scattering of urchins and anemones on the rocks beneath.
Dive date: 15 October 2011
Air temperature: 19 degrees
Water temperature: 15 degrees
Maximum depth: 6.6 metres
Visibility: 10 metres
Dive duration: 40 minutes